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How To Prevent Employees Stealing Your Business’ Data

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property (IP) lies at the heart of every modern business.

Have you created something that perhaps cannot be seen or touched but is of value to you and your business? In the eyes of the law, property that can be legally protected extends beyond just the physical. Intellectual Property is something created from the mind - for example, a story, an invention, an artistic work, or a symbol. Businesses are known by their brand name. They differentiate themselves and their services from each other through their inventions, creative ideas, and know-how.

You own intellectual property if you:

  • created it (and it fulfils the requirements for Intellectual property eg copyright, a patent, a trademark or a design).

  • bought intellectual property rights from the creator or a previous owner.

  • have a brand that could be registered as a trademark or can be protected through unregistered rights in “passing off”, for example, a well-known product name, logo or jingle.

When should I protect these rights?

Copyright protection arises automatically when you create:

  • original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, such as literature, illustration or photography

  • original non-literary written work, including software, web content and databases

  • · sound and music recordings

  • · film and television recordings

  • · broadcasts

  • · the layout of published editions of written, dramatic and musical works

Design rights automatically protect the shape, configuration, and overall visual appearance of a product. However, you must register a design to protect 2-dimensional designs such as graphics, textiles and wallpaper.

Use of your trade mark or brand name by someone else or another company can damage your business and your reputation. Brands are generally protected by registering trademarks. If your brand qualifies as a trademark, you should protect it by registering it as a trademark.

You can apply for a patent to protect your invention if it is something new and an invention.

How do I protect these rights as an employer?

As a business, your employees are likely to encounter Intellectual Property, whether they are creating it, using it in the course of their employment, or assisting with its development during their employment.

In order to enforce your rights and protect yourself from Intellectual Property infringement:

  • Ensure all your employee contracts include IP clauses

  • Ensure that any contractors, freelancers or casual workers that you employ sign “assignment of inventions” or “ownership of discoveries” agreements to transfer ownership of any IP they create whilst working for you to you.

  • Ensure that you obtain signed non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) prior to discussing your Intellectual property with others.

How do I protect these rights when an employee leaves my business?

Protecting your IP is a priority for all businesses today. When an employee leaves your business, it is important that your intellectual property and confidential information does not go with them. You must ensure that:

  • All employees have intellectual property and confidentiality clauses in their contracts of employment.

  • You conduct exit interviews with employees who are leaving your employment and remind employees of their contractual obligations upon termination.

  • All settlement agreements with employees contain intellectual property and confidentiality clauses and that you provide additional consideration for the employee in exchange for their execution of the agreement.

  • All confidential information is deleted from business equipment used by and to be retained by ex-employees (eg their personal mobile phones, usbs etc) when they leave the business.

  • You repossess all business equipment given to employees e.g. computers, usbs, hardrives, software etc on their departure.

  • You remove ex-employees’ access to the company database by deleting their company account access on their departure.

As fixed fee Intellectual property lawyers Pure Business Law can help you to protect your intellectual property.

Notes for employees and the self-employed

The general rule is that all Intellectual Property that you create as part of your work while you were employed by your employer is usually owned by your employer.

Where there are no employment agreement, policies, or written agreements assigning IP rights to the employer, an employee may own intellectual property that was developed outside of the employment relationship.

If you are self-employed, you usually own the intellectual property that you create. If your work was commissioned by someone else, you still own the intellectual property unless your contract with them gives them the ownership rights.

How can Pure Business Law help?

Protect your intellectual property. Call us today! Our fixed fee intellectual property specialists take care of everything so you can focus on what you do best – running your business. Whether you are looking to establish value for your ideas, enforcing your rights or ensuring you are not unintentionally infringing other people’s IP, you will need professional legal advice from our IP lawyers on how to proceed.

We are fixed fee specialist intellectual property lawyers based in Bedford and London. We operate nationally. If you would like to discuss your patent, copyright infringement, trademark, trade secret, databases, any intellectual property dispute or business or consumer dispute or anything else raised in this article or on our website, please contact us and speak with one of our specialist expert intellectual property solicitors.

Our expert specialist fixed fee intellectual property solicitors are waiting for your call.

Pure Business Law is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and is a licensed member of the Law Society of England & Wales.

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